Summer Play for Learning and Fun

In Anna Claire Pritchard, Kiddos by Lola Magazine

Ladies, we made it! It is officially summer after a spring of quarantine. Time to unwind, sit back, and PLAY! While we want to throw out every pencil, paper, and book in our household at this point; remember learning does not surface just from these materials alone. 

Our children are constantly learning. It does not solely occur behind a desk or kitchen table. I believe learning happens year round. While these past few months have looked a little different for us all and you may want to throw in the towel on “teaching”, hang in there. Development and growth can take place in a variety of ways – my favorite, PLAY! Toys are a great way to promote learning throughout all ages. Toys promote skills such as body awareness, balance, motor planning, and executive functioning. These skills are vital for classroom success. 

This summer I challenge you to encourage your kiddos to learn through real-life scenarios. For some this may look like teaching the neighborhood kids how to hit a Wiffle ball in the caudal sac, having a neighborhood sidewalk chalk art contest, creating outdoor obstacle courses, or teaching someone you love how to ride a bike. 

Wherever you may find yourself this summer, remember learning doesn’t have to involve arithmetic or Shakespeare. Get outdoors with your kids, let them run, jump, and create.  The more you can encourage play the more you will enjoy watching them learn and grow.   

Newborn through 2 Years

  • Play-yard with a tent: Whether headed to the beach or the backyard this is a great option with plenty of space for baby or toddler to explore
  • Splash pad: Develops sensory exploration
  • Water Table: Develops sensory exploration

2- 4 Years

  • Balance bike: Develops body awareness, balance, coordination, motor planning. Tip: Size is important when picking out a bike, this rings true for a balance bike as well. This bike is a great option because it allows for growth as your child learns the basics of bike riding.
  • Hopper: Develops body awareness and balance
  • Boogie Board: Develops grip strength, attention, visual motor skills, pre-writing skills. I love boogie board for this age group because of the writing utensil; it offers a larger surface area for easier grasp for little hands.
  • Air Tent: Develops open-ended play skills, imagination

5-7 Years

  • Bug playground: Develops exploration, attention, sensory exploration
  • Stepping stones: Develops coordination, balance, body awareness, attention, motor planning
  • Kinetic sand: Develops tactile exploration, attention. Tip: pour into a shallow rubbermaid container for easy play and storage
  • Sidewalk chalk spiral art: Develops grip strength, visual motor skills

8-10 Years

  • Walkie Talkies: Develops social skills, turn-taking, cooperative play. Encourage your child to explore the outdoors with friends taking turns finding hidden treasures.
  • Tie-Dye Kit: Develops sequencing, executive functioning skills
  • Bases: Develops open-ended play, cooperative play, social skills, coordination. Encourage your child to play a game of kickball or wiffle ball, or better yet have them make up a new game of their own.

Learn the lingo

  • Motor Planning – the ability to spontaneously take in information, organize and produce unfamiliar motor movements in order to complete a task.
  • Executive Functioning – includes the following skills: Impulse Control, Emotional Control, Organization, Task Initiation, Planning and Prioritizing, Self-Monitoring, Working Memory, Flexible Thinking. These skills are critical for everyday tasks of school-aged children both at school and home.
  • Body Awareness – the ability to recognize where your body is in space.

Anna Claire Pritchard is a pediatric occupational therapist at Building Futures Pediatric Therapy Center. Her love of occupational therapy began at a young age. She incorporates fun, creative facets as well as holistic approaches to better assist her clients in reaching their goals. She has experience in a variety of settings from a multidisciplinary center for children with Autism and communication disorders to home health and an outpatient clinic for children and adults with a wide variety of diagnoses such as traumatic brain injury, CVA, cerebral palsy, Sensory Processing Disorder and dysgraphia. Her diverse population of patients is one of her favorite aspects of occupational therapy. Due to her innate love for children, she chose Pediatric occupational therapy as her focus. Anna Claire cares for all of her patients on a personal and professional level.